Ramesses III


Ramesses III
King 1198-1166 BC.
    The son of Setnakhte and his queen Tiye-merenese, Ramesses III was the last great warrior-king of Egypt, although his military actions were largely defensive. He conciously modelled himself on *Ramesses II with regard to his titles, the names of his children and his wars; also, his funerary temple at Medinet Habu imitated *Ramesses II's temple, the Ramesseum, and at Medinet Habu he included a chapel for the cult of *Ramesses II's barque-image.
    In Year 5, Ramesses III faced his first great conflict. The *Libyans had recoverd from their war against *Merneptah and were seeking land in the Egyptian Delta; as an excuse for hostilities, they used their dislike of the new ruler whom Ramesses III had imposed upon them. Their forces included the three tribes of the *Libu, Sped and *Meshwesh, but the coalition was utterly defeated and the captives were taken to become forced labourers in Egypt.
    In Year 8, Egypt faced an even greater threat. A confederation of northerners (known collectively as the *Sea-peoples) had brought down the *Hittite Empire and they now advanced down the Syrian coast, bringing their women, children, ox-carts and possessions, with the intention of settling permanently in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. *Merneptah had repulsed a similar group who had allied with the *Libyans. The new association included the *Sheklesh, *Sherden, Weshwesh and three new groups—the *Peleset, Tjekker and Denen. This land-march was accompanied offshore by a formidable fleet, and the Egyptians had to meet the enemy on both fronts. Ramesses III managed to hold the land attack successfully, mobilising his forces in Palestine while he prepared his troops in Egypt. The Egyptians also trapped the enemy fleet in one of the mouths of the Nile, and successfully destroyed it. The third attack, in Year 11, came again from the *Libyans, and was also defeated.
    Wall-scenes in Ramesses III's temple at Medinet Habu and additional information in the Great Harris Papyrus provide a graphic account of these significant dangers that threatened Egypt. Other scenes, which show Ramesses III engaged in campaigns against *Hittite and Syrian towns, are probably anachronistic and merely copy scenes of the original, genuine, expeditions undertaken by *Ramesses II, the hero of Ramesses III.
    After Year 11 there was peace; the Great Harris Papyru (which was apparently written on the day of the king's death to ensure that he joined the gods) was almost certainly compiled at the behest of his son, Ramesses IV. It is the most extensive state archive yet discovered and probably formed part of the funerary temple archive. It lists the benefactions that the dead king had bestowed on the gods' temples, with Amen-Re of Karnak receiving the largest share. The Papyrus also provides a survey of the events of the reigns of the king and his father, and expeditions to *Punt for incense and to Sinai to obtain turquoise and copper are mentioned. The prosperity of this reign is also attested by the size and quality of the king's funerary temple at Medinet Habu, with its unique architectural feature of a gateway in the style of a Syrian fort; by the additional temples at Karnak; and by the king's large tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
    There were obviously troubles in the latter part of the reign; in Year 29, the monthly rations to the royal workforce, building the king's tomb, were delayed and strikes and riots resulted. The situation was only temporarily restored when the vizier intervened and food supplies appeared. At some point in the reign, there was an attempt to assassinate the king and to place a usurper (the child of a secondary wife, Tiy) on the throne. Tiy gained the support of the harem women and of some officials and they plotted to foment a rebellion; even a troop-commander from Kush, the brother of one of the harem women, was implicated. The conspiracy also drew on magical resources, using spells and waxen images, but it was uncovered and the offenders were brough to trial. The Conspiracy Papyri—now in Turin—are the state record of these trials, compiled under *Ramesses V, although the procedures were carried out in his father's reign.
    The defendants were found guilty. The more socially prominent were allowed to take their own lives, while the rest were put to death. Five of the judges originally chosen to hear the cases were also arrested and tried for carousing with the accused harem women. This assassination attempt was almost certainly unsuccessful, since the mummy of Ramesses III, discovered in the Deir el Bahri cache, shows no evidence of a violent death.
    Ramesses III's great queen was Ese and he had many children from his wives; his son Ramesses IV finally succeeded him.
BIBL. Erichsen, W. Papyrus Harris. Brussels: 1933; Chicago University, Oriental Institute Medinet Habu. (four vols) Chicago: 1932-40; de Buck, A. The Judicial Papyrus of Turin. JEA 23 (1927) pp. 152 ff; Edgerton, W. and Wilson, J.A. Historical records of Ramesses III. Chicago: 1936; Edgerton, W.F. The strikes in Ramses III's twenty-ninth year. JNES 10 (1951) pp. 137 ff.; CAH ii, ch xxviii; Schaedel, H. Die Listen des grossen Papyrus Harris. Gluckstadt: 1936.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
(reigned c. 1186–1153 BC)
   Throne name Usermaatre meryamun. Epithet heka iunu. Son of Sethnakhte and Tiyemerenese of Dynasty 20. His reign was distinguished by his successful campaign against the Sea Peoples, whose invasion of Egypt he crushed. He was able to maintain most of Egypt’s Asian empire. His principal surviving monuments are his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu and his tomb (KV11) in the Valley of the Kings. Ramesses III was apparently assassinated during a conspiracy against his appointed heir, Ramesses IV, who successfully countered the plot and punished the conspirators as recounted in the Harem Conspiracy Papyri. Hismummywas recovered from the royal cacheat Deirel-Bahri in 1881.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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